December 22

written by bryan on December 28th, 2008 @ 01:00 AM

Bryan from Queenstown

We woke up this morning, had breakfast, and went back to bed.

A couple of hours later we felt much better, and set our for our day’s activities – rafting!

We used the small remaining piece of morning to book transportation for our Christmas trek, and then boarded the shuttle that would take us out rafting.

The shuttle dropped us off at base camp, where we were fitted with our wet suit, rain coat and life jackets. I wondered just how cold the water was: the air temperature was 24 degrees.

We stripped down again and got onto a different shuttle for the ride to the start of our trip. The minibus struggled its way up to the top of the hill where had a fabulous view of a valley with Arrowtown in the distance where our guide claimed the best pie in the world was made. Unfortunately we probably won’t get there to test their pie against Mom’s or the Chilliwack airport’s! However, when a Kiwi refers to “pie”, he’s usually referring to the savoury version rather than the sweet.

At the top of the hill we turned off the pavement onto a gravel road. The sign at the top warned that the road was not suitable for campers or trailers. Our minibus was the size of a small camper, plus we were pulling a trailer full of rafts!

The road was as treacherous as promised. We were descending on a very narrow gravel track along a steep canyon wall. The guide had a name for every corner and rock formation. One corner was appropriately named “bus scratch corner”. We didn’t actually scratch the bus, but our rafts on the trailer behind certainly did.

The canyon we were descending and the river we would be rafting were once the home of 3000 gold miners. There was a pub every mile – with the remains of some still visible. The mother lode has never been found, so even today the Shotover river contains more gold than any other in the world. A mining ban was put into place in 1992 – rusty mining equipment is still visible along the river.

On the other side of the canyon from our descent lies an incredible looking downhill mountain bike track. Too bad we won’t get to try it.

We made it safely to the head of our downstream voyage, put on our gear and were assigned to a boat. Bethany and I volunteered for the front of the boat – we figured that would be the wettest and coolest spot.

The rafting itself was slightly better than the Ottawa. Most of the rapids were class 3 or 4 with little downtime between rapids. It’s a much smaller river so the experience is different. The scenery was spectacular.

Halfway down we watched a girl do a “canyon swing”. Similar to a bungee, it uses a rope instead to give a good swing at the bottom. Looked fun.

By the end I had mild heat stroke – I should have protested the wet suit more strongly. It was also partly due to a too tight helmet.

We finished the evening with a sunset soak in the hot pools. Japanese style, we had a private tub with garage door windows that opened up to give us a spectacular view.

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